Perfect for the traveller on a shoestring budget, hostels are no longer simply a low-price accommodation option. Most are upping their game with expansive communal spaces, better-equipped kitchens and social activities. Skip the high West London hotel prices and opt for one of these hostels.
Often seen as the cushier side of town, West London encompasses some of the city’s most famous (and photographed) areas, from Soho to Notting Hill. With notoriety, however, comes increased prices. Hostels offer a way to immerse yourself in these must-visit neighbourhoods without breaking the bank – and you might just make some new friends along the way. Hang out in lively social spots or relax in quiet homely spaces at these diverse hostels.
Set in a Georgian townhouse, this hostel already feels special just from the outside. Step indoors, and you’ll find large rooms that are a cut above the average, with calming, sky-blue walls, large windows and well-spaced red bunk beds. Bathrooms are sleek and modern, and everything is immaculate enough to convert even the most reluctant hostel guest. The communal lounge and kitchen allow the chance to meet fellow travellers over a drink or a meal, and the breakfast provided each morning is great value. With Hyde Park practically on your doorstep and Kensington Palace a short stroll away, you are in prime royal-spotting territory. Bayswater station is a short walk from the property, where the Circle and District lines can shoot you around most of Central London.
Located across the road from Westfield Shepherd’s Bush (among the biggest malls in Europe, no less), St Christopher’s Inn already puts you in good stead for a successful stay in London. With Belushi’s, the in-house bar-style pub that attracts a young, revelrous crowd, and 25 percent off all food and beverage for guests, you’ll meet other travellers easily. The Central line is across the road, putting you within minutes of Central London. Load up on the free breakfast before taking advantage of the free walking tours on offer – they’re a great way to get an insider’s view on the surrounding area and beyond.
In the heart of Soho with Oxford Street just a block away, this YHA couldn’t be closer to the action. Rooms are simple but comfortable, and some even have views of the London Eye from the window. Should you want to board the observation wheel itself, reception also sells discounted tickets to most of the city’s main attractions. The lounge and restaurant is the perfect place to fuel up on breakfast before a big day, or enjoy a pizza with fellow travellers before exploring the buzzing Soho nightlife.
Owners Liz and Ken opened Barmy Badger Backpackers in 1997, basing it on their own experiences of backpacking. Built to be a home away from home, it often feels more like staying with welcoming friends or family than it does a hostel. It’s the perfect antithesis to the impersonal options that are increasingly common. With a communal dining space and kitchen and outdoor barbecue that guests are welcome to use, you are more than equipped to dine in and socialise with the other guests, although breakfast is provided each morning free of charge. Keep an eye out for the hostel’s two dogs that call the building home Monday through Friday.
On the fringes of Holland Park, in a former aristocratic home, this hostel has an edge of old-school glamour, with its grassy courtyard and fountain-filled pond. The quality doesn’t slip indoors either, where you’ll find spacious dorms and reasonably priced private rooms, plus a games room and restaurant. There are also plenty of events and experiences on offer, such as in-house yoga and free walking tours. Stroll over to Notting Hill, and spend the day exploring the abundance of vintage and antique stores. Break for lunch at Ottolenghi where you can refuel with dishes such as grilled eggplant dressed with tahini and pomegranate, or English beef with horseradish and mustard cream.